It's where everyone knows your business—and remembers everything you'd rather forget. But somehow the little Catskills town of Marsden draws the most unlikely people back home, turns their lives every which way, and helps them finally figure out what—and who—they want most. . .
As a celebrity photographer's assistant, Celia Marshall is used to seeing all kinds of weird antics. But subbing as the model in irrepressible movie star Niall Crenshaw's latest endorsement ad—while wearing his silk boxers, no less—is definitely not in her job description. Neither is falling for him, especially since he's dating his latest co-star. To complicate things further, Celia is returning to Marsden to keep an eye on her eccentric grandmother—and Niall is driving her there, then staying to judge a talent contest. . .
Soon Celia is pulled in a dozen different directions, trying to get her grandmother to act her age, placating her frantic former boss who's organizing the contest—and attempting to stay away from funny, sexy Niall. Celia's always been level headed, but suddenly she's wishing she could get reckless right along with him. Has the time come for sensible Celia to cut loose?. . .
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By JAYNE DENKER
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Jayne Denker
All rights reserved.
"Marshall, what did I tell you? Pants! Off! Now!"
Celia gripped her hips tighter, her nails digging into the fabric of her offending pants, which were most definitely not coming off. She stared at the blindingly white backdrop, the dull, grimy back wall of the warehouse peeking above it, and tried to breathe evenly. That was just something no employee should have to hear in the course of her workday. For most professions, anyway.
"Vic," she called without turning around, "I can't."
"Not good enough."
Her boss heaved a sigh and she heard him trudge closer. The brilliant lights burned the back of her neck on either side of her narrow ponytail. She knew she was holding up the photo shoot—the rumblings of the crowd standing around expectantly communicated that pretty well. Never one for coddling his photography subjects unless it was someone famous (and it usually was—she was a major exception), Victor was about to either unleash holy hell on her ... or start in with some massively insincere schmoozing to get his way. But she would not be moved. Because this was not part of her job description.
"Look," Vic muttered softly, his broad Australian accent drawing the words out, "you've got to help me out."
So he was going with the schmoozing. Interesting choice. Didn't matter. Celia steeled herself. Not going to be moved. Not an inch. She snuck a glance at her boss as he fiddled with his beloved Hasselblad. Not for the first time, Celia salivated over the superexpensive camera. Someday ... She made a mental note to buy a lottery ticket on the way home.
Vic kept his head down, his shaggy, gray-white hair falling over one eye, in a transparent attempt to seem nonchalant. After working for him for more than two years, Celia knew he was freaking out on the inside. He had a good act going, but it wasn't influencing her in the least.
"Nobody had any idea the leg model would have an allergic reaction to the temporary tattoo," he went on. "Her limb is now the size of the Hindenburg. Even I can't make that look good."
"Is she all right?"
"She'll be fine. Don't worry about her. Worry about this shoot."
Celia sighed. "Let me call the agency. They can send over another—"
"No time. The suits from McManus are getting fidgety, and the talent's going to be here any minute. I know you'll do; I've seen your legs, Marshall—"
"Wait—what? When did you—?"
"At that art gallery party. When you wore that ... flippy skirt." He smirked tiredly. "One of the reasons I'm so successful at what I do, Marshall, is because I'm observant. And that means I know what's hiding under—what are those, yoga pants?—which, as I've said, need to go. Now."
"Vic, there's no way I'm taking off my pants in front of everybody."
Aggravated, he rubbed his cheek, dusted with carefully tended week-old scruff, with his left hand as he gestured with the camera in his right. "The shot is from arse cheeks to the floor. I need your legs bare, all right?" he called as he backed away, getting ready to get to work and likely assuming Celia was as well. "Turning up your cuffs like that won't cut it. Now, can you please be professional about this?"
Danny, Vic's second assistant and one of Celia's roommates, walked around her with a light meter in his hand. She caught his snicker even though he hid behind the instrument. "I don't need any commentary from you," Celia grumbled.
"Come on, you've gotta admit this is just a tiny bit hilarious."
"Keep it up and I'm using all the hot water before you even manage to find your way out of bed tomorrow morning."
"And how would that make tomorrow different from any other day? Between you and my sister, it's a miracle I get five minutes in the bathroom most mornings."
"You snooze, you lose—in this case, literally. Ice bath for you tomorrow, for sure."
"Look here, missy," her roommate drawled. "You don't scare me. I once went four weeks with no hot water—in winter—thanks to that good-for-nothing super. Just do what the man says, all right? The faster we get this done, the sooner we can all go home. And I'm making paella tonight."
With a sly wink at her, Danny gave Victor the high sign and drifted away, making Celia feel even more guilty for keeping everyone waiting. But no. This was not on her. Why should she—
Then, suddenly ... hands. On her leg. The little "Yip!" that escaped her was absolutely mortifying. She had no reason to flinch. This happened all the time in photo shoots—people took liberties, didn't ask before they manhandled you. They didn't have to. Then again, she was never the one being manhandled. She took a steadying breath. It was just Jeannie, the makeup and wardrobe lady, about to apply the temporary tattoo to the back of her leg. Right?
"Oh, sorry. Are my hands cold?"
Then again, Jeannie's touch was never that intimate. Also, she wasn't a tenor.
Celia glanced down, and her stomach clenched. Dammit. "The talent" had arrived—and she'd been so preoccupied trying to figure out how not to strip that she hadn't noticed the ripple of excitement pass through everyone in the room. She heard it now, though. Or, rather, felt it—like the level of energy was ratcheted just a little bit higher because Niall Crenshaw, comedic movie star and man of the hour, the celebrity endorsing McManus scotch, was present. Lounging at her feet.
"I couldn't help overhearing, and I get it. The hesitation, I mean," he said, then stage-whispered, holding the back of his hand alongside his mouth, "Commando, am I right?"
"What? No!" It came out as an indignant squeak.
He flashed his famous lopsided grin at her, and her world listed sideways, just a little. It was disconcerting to see such a familiar face in her everyday life. She was used to it being two-dimensional and several feet high on a movie screen.
Celia faltered. She got the sneaking suspicion he was expecting her to respond a certain way—gush, perhaps? Squeal? Giggle? She didn't have that in her. Instead, she crossed her arms and huffed, "Do I look like the commando type to you?"
Niall's assessing gaze traveled up and down her body. Slowly. Very slowly. "Oh, absolutely," he murmured. "At least, a guy can hope."
It was right about then that the butterflies kicked in.
Which was just plain stupid. And unprofessional of her. After all, working for Victor meant being around lots of celebrities, all the time. Being in the same room with Niall Crenshaw shouldn't have been a big deal. But the thrumming running through her body, including the pulse in her neck, so strong she was terrified it was going to make her voice quaver, said otherwise.
Niall bounced to his feet and stuck out a hand. "Sorry. Niall Crenshaw."
Tentatively, she shook it. He looked pretty dashing, wearing a nicely tailored tuxedo for the shoot, undone tie draped around his neck, collar open, but it wasn't like he was the most gorgeous guy in the world—he'd never be on People's "Sexiest Men" list. He was too tall, too gangly, with a wide mouth and a slightly bulbous nose. If his hair had been shorter, it probably would have revealed ears that stuck out as well. Still, his looks were secondary to his comic timing—when he pulled a face or cracked a joke, millions of people couldn't help but laugh.
"Marshall!" Victor barked.
Celia flinched, and the photographer sighed, clearly reining in his urge to throw one of his famous tantrums.
"Celia," he said in a more even tone, "Now? Please," he added. "Before the money men have my hide."
She rubbed her forehead wearily. She knew when she was beaten. "All right."
"Jeannie!" Vic bellowed. "Tattoo! Then ... the studded Jimmy Choos, I think." To Celia, he said, "I hope they're your size. If not, the feeling will come back into your toes eventually. Off you go. And lose the pants," he reminded her, returning his attention to his camera. "Please," he added again, more brusquely and more belatedly than before, now that he'd gotten his way. "And thank you."
How in the world was she going to do this? Well, she knew how—she was just going to have to suck it up, ignore her misgivings (and her modesty, so out of place in the world of professional photography), and drop trou. Judging by the eager look Niall was giving her, he was all for it.
But this wasn't like her—not in the least. Her role was behind the camera—way behind, in the corner of the room, tethered to the shoot only by the cord running from Vic's camera to the computer, where she dutifully organized all the shots while he worked. Sometimes she never even had the chance to look up from the screen to see what was going on only yards away. And she preferred it, being in the shadows. She was not the spotlight type. So she hesitated, unable to force herself to get over it. And the longer she hesitated, the more Vic growled low in his throat, and the more agitated all the hangers-on became.
Niall noticed. He glanced over his shoulder at the restive crowd, made up of McManus executives, the team from the ad agency, and Vic's assistants (and their assistants), and effectively shut them down—all of them, with just a look. Then he studied Celia. "Hey," he said kindly. "I've got an idea."
He reached into the inner pocket of his tuxedo jacket and, with a flourish, flapped out a piece of shiny black cloth.
Celia looked at it suspiciously. "What good is a silk handkerchief at this point?"
"A handkerchief? Hardly." Grinning, he held the item up, stretching it wide. There was an elastic band. "Try these babies on for size."
"No," Celia declared. "No, no, no."
"Why not?" the man asked disingenuously, the very picture of innocence.
"You know perfectly well why not. Your manky old underwear? Are you serious?"
"My dear lady!" he gasped, pretending to be affronted. "These are high-quality, freshly laundered silk boxers. My very special extra pair that I keep with me at all times. I wouldn't dream of asking you to wear my—how did you put it?—manky old underwear. That is, unless this were an entirely different situation."
"Don't you waggle your eyebrows at me, mister," she hissed. "What type of person carries around an extra pair of underwear?"
"You never know when you might need them. Like today, for in- stance." He turned to Vic. "What do you think, my man? Would these look good in the shoot or what?"
The photographer thought about it for a moment. "Not bad. Quite sexy, in fact."
"Right?" He turned to Celia. "There we go—all settled."
"Jeannie!" Vic bellowed. "Iron!"
Celia ducked away from Niall, who was trying to put the boxers on her head, elastic band first. "Excuse me. Do I have any say in—" "Absolutely not," Vic snapped.CHAPTER 2
"For God's sake, Marshall, will you relax!"
Celia drew a shaky breath. How in the world had she ended up in this situation? She'd rolled out of bed—well, had been dragged out by the perpetually perky Danny—as usual, expecting a normal, uneventful day fetching and carrying for Vic. Now she was perspiring under hot lights, wearing a famous person's silk boxers, wobbling in sky-high, thousand-dollar shoes, and trying not to topple over onto the very expensive bottle of scotch on the floor, close to her temporarily tattooed leg.
Celia looked down at Niall, reclining at her feet once again, propped up on one elbow as he talked to his agent, who was standing off to one side. She hadn't seen all of his movies, just a select few, but she recalled that somehow, some way, the goofy-looking actor always managed to convey the impression that he was leading-man hot. He was emitting that kind of star quality now. He had that "thing" going on—presence, or whatever it was called—that made him look like he wasn't quite a part of the world around him. He was more vivid, somehow, like a high-definition rendering against an analog back-drop. Everything paled in comparison.
Celia realized she was staring, but she couldn't seem to stop. His smooth, dark brown hair shone under the lights. His body, used to gangly effect on-screen, was lithe and graceful in everyday life. He was actually really attractive, she thought. It wasn't an illusion after all.
And then he looked up at her with his warm hazel eyes and smiled, his generous, wide mouth stretching across his whole face, as though the sight of her was the highlight of his day. Her train of thought, such that it was, jumped the track, tearing up the embankment as it barreled toward a stand of trees in the distance. Uh-oh.
"You look really good in my boxers."
And her derailed train went up in a glorious fireball, taking the forest with it.
"Hey," he whispered, "I'm not embarrassing you or anything, am I?"
"Oh gee!" she whispered back, her voice strained and unnaturally high-pitched. "I can't imagine why you'd think that! This whole thing is so completely ..."
"Humiliating," she muttered. He shifted on the concrete floor, and she realized she wasn't the only one in a compromising situation. "Are you uncomfortable?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing."
"I mean physically."
"Well, this floor is kinda hard, but I get to fondle your ankle, and the view is exceptional, so it's all good."
Celia wondered if her ass-cheeks were showing under the cool silk of the boxers. She had tried wearing her own underwear underneath, but Vic had taken one look at her rear, declared he could see panty lines that couldn't be erased with Photoshop (she doubted it, being handy with the program herself, but she said nothing), and sent her back to the "dressing room" (a couple of portable curtain dividers in the corner) to remove them. Now she had to resist the urge to tug the boxers lower in the back in case any extra part of her anatomy was on display. If she did, she knew Victor would kill her for ruining the carefully arranged drape of the fabric.
"It's a really nice ankle, by the way." Niall's long, thin fingers grazed her skin lightly, putting her nerve endings on high alert. She shivered, even under the hot lights, her thin wrap cardigan nowhere near the type of armor she was going to need for this.
"Look, Mr. Crenshaw—"
"Oh, call me Niall. Please. If we're going to be intimate—"
"We're not being intimate. We're doing a photo shoot."
This time his touch was firm; he caressed her ankle, then his hand traveled up her calf.
"Just getting into character."
"Vic isn't even shooting right now."
"Prep time. Very important."
"Look, I—I don't even know you!"
His expressive features took on a puzzled look, exaggerated for effect—arched eyebrows, and a twist of his lips that took his grin from cheerful to are-you-kidding-me bewilderment. "Of course you know me."
"Well, s-sure, I know your name" Celia stammered, unsure how to explain herself. "And ... the usual information. Stuff in the press. But that doesn't count. I don't know who you are."
Niall studied her for a moment, his expression clearing to neutral. "Really," he murmured softly.
Alarm flared through Celia at the sudden change in him, and she worried that she'd angered him in some way. "What?"
"Nothing. Just ... most people assume they know me really well. Especially the ones who've never met me."
"Marshall!" Victor bellowed. "Posture!"
She was a little relieved at the interruption. For a moment, Niall had looked like a completely different person, all affectation gone and entirely vulnerable. She wasn't sure she liked what that did to her insides.
"I need a strong line, and what I'm getting from you right now is more like a cooked noodle!"
"I only looked down for a second."
"Well, don't. Niall is indeed there, no need to check."
Oh, she was well aware of that.
"Now, head high, shoulders back, arms rigid, elbows out. Give me attitude, Marshall. Have you got that in you?"
"For a shot of the back of my leg?"
"Do as I tell you," he drawled. "It'll translate. Niall, if I could have you a little closer to the bottle ... little more ... little more ..."
Celia could feel the heat radiating off Niall's shoulder, which was now rubbing up against her. Click, click, click—Victor's camera was going at top speed. Then a pause, and Celia knew her boss was scrolling back through the shots he'd just taken.
Excerpted from Picture This by JAYNE DENKER. Copyright © 2014 Jayne Denker. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
* I received an ebook in exchange for an honest review. * This is book 2 in the Marsden series, however, it can be read as a stand alone book and the reader will understand what is going on. I do recommend that you read book 1 first just because it is really amazing and also because it does touch on the characters that you will find in this book. The author does a really great job with adding a slight re-cap of the prior books events, without making it like a retelling of book 1. The author jumped right into Celia's life and her move to the big city to pursue her photography. Celia is an assistant to a photographer in NY and she is helping out when the main model can no longer do the photo shoot so Niall, the actor, decides to have her fill in. The author is able to show the instant attraction and chemistry between the characters right through the pages and the reader can't help but root for them to get together as a couple. Celia is a small town girl who has been through a messy divorce. Niall is an actor who is used to woman falling all over him and doesn't like it when Celia is not one of them. Niall begins a devious plot to get Celia to see him and at the same time discover himself. The reader is hooked from the very first paragraph of this book and never wants to leave the town, the characters or the life that they can imagine for themselves once they get caught up in this artistic town. There will be plenty of laughter, drama, yelling and at times the reader will get a bit choked up. The author doesn't leave any emotion out of the story. You will smiling one minute and the next you will be shaking your head in disbelief. There is nothing predictable about this story and it does keep the reader on the edge of their seats. I can't wait for the next book in the Marsden series! Make sure you add this to your TBR list and add the others as well - once you start reading this series you won't want to stop! It is addicting, but in a good way (unless you can't stop reading long enough to get your real life chores done). Enjoy this one and the others! ***Review has been done in conjunction with Nerd Girl Official. ***
Gross bad book
Between her charmer of a town and Niall and Celia’s relationship, Denker brings her readers laugh-out-loud moments mixed with the heart readers need to keep coming back again and again. She delivers an engaging and clever romance that is definitely addictive. Full review available at Romantic Reads and Such on wordpress. (Complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review)
Looking for a book filled with humor, romance, and small town fun ... Picture This! Jayne Denker’s second novel based in the small, quaint Catskills town of Marsden, Picture This, will be released next week (17 July 2014). If you haven’t already read Denker’s Down on Love, the novel that introduces Marsden and it’s inhabitants, then I’d suggest you might want to take a look at it now. But don’t feel you have to as Picture This is a really self-contained story. However, there is so much laugh-out-loud humor in Down on Love that I don’t think you’ll want to miss it. Celia Marshall, the almost girlfriend of Carey in Down on Love, is now a celeb photographer’s assistant in the Big Apple. She’s living her dream, right? Well, perhaps, but it does seem like a better life and career for her than the graphic design job she held in Marsden. Certainly being imposed upon (really blackmailed into) posing with Hollywood comedic heartthrob Niall Crenshaw for a whiskey ad wouldn’t seem onerous duty, but Celia likes to stay in the background and the spotlight is definitely on front-and-center with Niall. But love (or lust) knows no boundaries and there is apparently a very special zing between Niall and Celia. Even with his B-movie costar hanging on his side, Niall only has eyes for this Marsden girl. Niall will have a hard time to convince country girl Celia that he can be serious in light of the glam party atmosphere that surrounds him though. During his three-hour drive upstate into the Catskills with Celia with a game of truth, they begin to discover a bit more about each other. When Niall says he’s staying in Marsden to help out with a project, I wasn’t sure how this story would evolve. Seriously, the residents of Marsden were so wacky in Down on Love that with their nosiness they drove the heroine back to Boston. But Denker never does as expected and this story allowed the residents of Marsden to evolve quite a bit. Certainly they’re still quite quirky, but seem ever so slightly less frenetic. Reading Jayne Denker’s books is pure pleasure and Picture This is my new favorite. She really provides readers with characters that are not only compelling and interesting, but who struggle through many issues we all have to face (aging relatives, career choices, living life or existing). At first I expected Niall to be all surface Hollywood overlaying just enough sincerity to make the book interesting. Instead, he became, for me, the center grounding point of the story. I love his initial impression of Marsden as he walks down the Main Street for the first time on a Sunday morning: “…Niall had to admit to himself it was nearly impossible to dislike Marsden, despite the lack of a Starbucks on every corner. Celia wasn’t kidding when she described the place as quaint. It was so quaint it verged on twee. He’d never experienced twee before, but now he felt like he was up to his neck in it. He wandered down the old-fashioned Main Street expecting the cast of The Music Man to come high-stepping down the sidewalks….Plenty of trees, with wood-and-iron benches nearby, offered shade from the summer sun. Simply adorable storefronts, including an old-fashioned hardware store, antiques stores, gift shops, and restaurants, alongside art galleries and high-end boutiques completed the look.” Marsden definitely seems a little enchanted as it begins to charm this Hollywood star. I laughed uproariously as he noted he couldn’t sleep because of the quiet (no car alarms, horns, sirens) and then because of the noise of the crickets. A true city visitor experiencing the country for the first time (yes, I have heard these complaints before)! As Denker notes in an endnote, Marsden is a creation of her imagination, though aspects of it are drawn from several small towns in the Catskill region. For me that is an added bonus as I feel quite at home (being a Catskill Mountain girl myself). Most of all, Picture This is a beautifully written love story between two disparate people, love for family members and friends, and for a community of people who care. Given it’s the hero is a Hollywood star, it’s not a surprise that at many points in the story I was imagining it on screen - casting and recasting various actors in the roles. In Picture This, Denker’s wonderful sense of humor echoes the best of Nora Ephron, so perhaps it wouldn’t be a giant leap to see this story transition to film. Picture This is a book that I will recommend to all my friends and family, without reservation. Definitely a five-star read.
Fun, touching, sweet read that lovers of small town romances will adore. An incredible group of characters and laugh out loud humor make this a great read. Very well written with a great storyline. When hunky Hollywood star Niall Crenshaw meets Celia Marshall on a photo shoot he is immediately taken with her. So when she is called back to her hometown of Marsden, Niall decides to go along and agrees to emcee the local talent show. I highly recommend this one!
Picture This, Denker, Jayne. Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews. A fun read this one but not quite what I anticipated. With Niall being a film star I thought there'd be more of that side of the celebrity life but the was little of it. I was anticipating too more fireworks and jealousy from the co star he was dating ….but that sort of disappeared mostly, rather than the furore and jealousy I expected it was pretty tame and neatly sorted. Celia was sweet, one of those people who try to please everyone and end up frazzled and taken advantage of. When she and Niall are in her home town Marsden, its a typical small town scene where everyone knows everything and gossip travels fast. There were some humorous moments but somehow for me the romance side of it was a bit lacking. Its a decent read, well written but just a bit lacking in drama and emotion for me. Its a very light, easy to read novel for those that want that sort of read, I just like a bit more depth. Stars: Three and a half. ARC supplied via Netgalley